My friend Cindy and I try to hike together a few Saturdays a month and we often burn through ten miles in three hours. We zip through the forest preserves and have deep discussions on How to Save the World from the Goddamn Patriarchy. (And just in case you think we take ourselves too seriously, the topic of Milagro1 chips also comes up every. single. time.)
On the rare occasions that we need to hike for a shorter period of time, thus cutting our distance to less than ten miles, I always come home feeling a bit off. My feet and legs aren’t sore enough. My shoulders don’t ache from pounding the hiking sticks enough times into the hills. I feel good enough to continue on with my day without an hour to rest. Unacceptable. In a weird way, the lack of utter exhaustion decreases my motivation to go out again.
I only feel as if something in my psyche is fixed when I push myself right up to the edge, when everything – everything! - hurts. I refer to the pain as the phone - as in, “Those hills got the phone ringing in my legs. Talk about sore! Now we’re getting somewhere!”
One of my favorite things about Philmont was the unrelenting brutality of the terrain. There were a few days when we hiked ten or twelve hours and continually stared at the %$#*! map and said things like, “They must have forgotten to note those five hours of switchbacks on this section of Tooth Ridge.”
But then we would finally get to camp and throw down our packs and I’d be thinking to myself, “Man, what an incredible day. I can’t believe how cool that was. And now I will remove my boots and peek at my gross blisters and hobble about in my camp shoes like I am a Chinese woman with bound feet. Best day ever!” And I meant it.
Towards the end of our time in Philmont, our crew helped with a conservation project on a steep hillside. Letty and I worked on removing scrub oak from the trail while Ben and the boys got their lumberjack bonafides and removed dead and dying trees. The steep incline of the hill put additional pressure on my feet and I could feel the blisters on my heels starting up with a new layer of fuckery. Afterwards, while we were hiking alongside a lovely creek, I found myself standing in the sedge, dry-heaving from the pain in my feet, my thoughts a gray roar of don’t-throw-up-don’t-throw-up-don’t-throw-up-breathe-it’s-only-pain-breathe-don’t-throw-up.
That evening, when we had gotten back to camp and were going through our Roses, Buds and Thorns for the day, it never occurred to me to talk about my blisters as a Thorn. They were just a part of the ongoing story called When We Totally Killed It at Philmont. The phone was ringing and ringing and ringing in my legs, my feet, my shoulders, but I was just focused on the next step. It hurts and I am eating ibuprofen like it’s candy, but I’m even more determined to slay the trail tomorrow. I always said I was “in it to win it” with Philmont and, damnit, I’m going to finish this trek like a fucking rockstar. Pain is temporary, pride is forever.
In a far more serious manner, the phone is ringing tonight as I ponder the horrors of the domestic terrorism that occurred at the Charlottesville rally. Nazis marched through the town. Their right to peacefully assemble was protected by the police. A counter protest was held in the same area and a car driven by a Nazi mowed down nineteen of the counter protestors. Apparently, their right to peacefully assemble did not apply. One of the counter protestors was murdered by the impact of the car.
The President of the United States did not specifically denounce this act of domestic terrorism.
As I read the news reports and commentary tonight, I muttered to myself, “The phone is ringing off the hook.” Our country is in unbearable pain. The president of the United States was elected on a platform of bigotry and hatred and now the KKK and Alt-Right and Steve Bannons of the world feel empowered because they know they will not be criticized by the POTUS.
When 45 was elected, I remember seeing some memes going around that were spoofs of the Make America Great Again hats. The revised hats said Make Racists Afraid Again. This is the basic sentiment I’m seeing tonight on the news and social media. There are thousands of voices out there yelling that this type of hate can no longer persist in our society and that “somebody” should do something.
The pain in our country is unbearable right now and the phone is clearly ringing. The question is who (or what) will come forward to take the steps necessary to stop this hatred and horror.
The phone is ringing, America. Ringing and ringing and ringing. We are dry-heaving in the weeds from the horror of it, but we also need to stand back up and confront the pain. The people of color in our country need to hear and see white folks say, “Enough. We will no longer tolerate this. “All lives matter” is a bullshit phrase that empowers the Nazis and alt-right terrorists. Black lives matter. Black lives fucking matter. We are standing up and refusing to use euphemisms like “alt right” anymore. Black lives fucking matter, not the rights of white cowards and bigots. Fuck their feelings. Black lives matter. Period.”
I don’t know what the answers are to this. I only know that I am going to bed tonight with a prayer2 that I will wake up tomorrow and see a call to arms. That someone is going to unveil the plan that starts with, “Enough. We have had enough. This pain is pushing us to action. Today is the day that we are rising up against the bigots.”
1Holy Mother of Pearl: Gimme those Milagros and a bowl of leftover buffalo chicken dip and I’ll stay out of your hair for an hour. I promise.
2Me texting Jesus: You up?
J: Girl, I am literally the Son of God. I’m always up.
Me: You need to get some sleep.
Me: You’ve got a busy day ahead of you tomorrow. You need to rain some fire and brimstone down on those MFers in Charlottesville.
J: You’re telling me how to do my job? Puh-lease.
Me: I would do it myself, but I don’t have that superpower.
J: We’ve talked about this before.
J: You’re supposed to pray for your enemies.
Me: It’s not very satisfying.
J: It’s not optional.
Me: I need a different superpower, please.
J: I’m not going to murder anybody tomorrow for you.
Me: How about on Monday?
J: Go to bed.
Thanks for reading, friends. It's always appreciated.